About a year ago, I came upon the movie “Forever Strong” The movie offered a somewhat different take on the traditional sports flick. In most sports movies, the team starts off from an underdog position. Then in the course of one season or less, they turn it around. This is generally unlikely, considering the more talented favorites are usually working just as hard as the hero team. Or maybe these rags to riches stories are so rare, that’s why they make movies about them. The team this movie focuses on is anything but an underdog, Highland High School, from Salt Lake City Utah, has won the national title in 20 out of 27 years with the coach featured in the movie. The main character is also one of the best players in the country, but he doesn’t play for Highland, he plays for a rival team in Arizona. But he’s having a rough go in life. His father, also his coach, is cold and ruthless, so his childhood was less than happy, even though he seems somewhat spoiled. He’s been prone to making mistakes, and after a drunk driving crash that nearly kills his passenger, he is sent to a juvenile prison in Salt Lake. So a lot of the first part of the movie, is about how one of the best players in the nation, comes to play for the best team in the nation. Not really your traditional underdog story. But it is a story about how successful individuals and programs still face adversity, how they handle it, and how they keep moving forward.
The movie doesn’t really get into church content, but it does talk a lot about values, and integrity. By leaving the LDS faith out of it, the movies was hoping to appear to a broader audience. But the coach is a devout Mormon, as is a lot of the team. Shortly after retiring as a coach, he was called to be a mission president. Pretty cool. I guess the Church has a history of successful Rugby. In 2010, I shared a story with my Young Men about the BYU womens rugby team forfeiting the quarterfinal game of the national championships, after refusing to play on Sunday. http://www.abc4.com/content/news/top%20stories/story/BYU-Rugby-Club-to-forfeit/B38lLJqa_kqbDzF55Bi8xg.cspx The BYU mens team won the national championship in 2009 and 2012.
Rugby isn’t just enjoyed by the Mormons. When I was at Colgate, my freshman year roommate was the hook for our club rugby team, and we had an active womens team as well. And this was certainly anything but BYU, with a keg on the sideline, and a lot more drinking and partying before and after the games. So rugby really is a sport for everyone. It’s a sport that is enjoyed by people with a variety of body types, and fitness levels. The only thing you really need is a ridiculous amount of toughness. Maybe that’s why I never tried out for it, I was recruited twice, I had played some football in high school, some soccer, I was a runner. I dunno, maybe my roommate shouldn’t have asked me if I wanted to try out for the team after returning to my room a bloody mess, and with a bit of a limp. Plus the hard partying wasn’t really my thing either.
A few months after watching the movie, I became aware again of our local rugby program in Saratoga. One of my former teaching colleagues played for the team, and at one point tried to get me to join up. But now that I was interested again, I decided to check out a few games last fall. And I ended up having a great time. The mens team ended up with an undefeated season, and is going to nationals this spring. I’ll do another post in the near future on the rules of rugby and what I like and don’t like about the sport. There is a match this Saturday though, and I was planning on going to that.